Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Washington's Iran Confusion

Does the White House know what it's doing on Iran's nuclear bomb threat? If you take a look at published reports since July, it's a comedy of errors that may end as a colossal tragedy of stupidity.

Back at the end of July, U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser James Jones went to Israel and met with prime minister Netanyahu and the Mossad chief and others outlining a three step plan for Iran. Step one was diplomacy up until September. Step two was the beginning of crippling bans on Iran's critical imports such as gasoline (they have little refining capacity) and such things as military blockading of their sea ports. Step 3 was the combined U.S. and Israeli air strike.

So Obama issues the September deadline for a meaningful response from Iran to the unconditioned overture he earlier extended to engage Iran in a negotiated solution. September has come and Iran has issued its response, which is a diatribe of how evil the whole world is other than Islam and how they have the right to make bombs. Journalists who have read the document call it a slap in the face of Obama.

The September time limit was not arbitrary. For years, intelligence agencies around the world, except for Israel's Mossad, have been of the mind that Iran would not be a bomb making threat untill around 2013. The Mossad, however, has been saying for about 3 years now that a red line in the sand would be crossed around the end of 2009 where they would have enough enriched uranium from their plants to start the relatively rapid process of assembling devices. Israel's officials have been warning that they would not allow Iran to go past this line. Well, in recent weeks, there has been a change in U.S. intel opinion and now they essentially agree with what Israel has been saying all along! The Israeli military knows where all the bomb material is being made and have drawn up plans to take out all these facilities, but the actual bomb assembly can be done at many new and unknown locations and the process cannot be as easily and completely stopped when it goes to that stage. "Now that Iran has got all the components for making a nuclear device at extremely short notice, as affirmed by U.S. intelligence, Israel can no longer delay a decision on pre-emptive action." DEBKAfile 9/10/09

Europe sees Iran as a clear and present danger and doesn't buy the line from them that they are only pursuing a peaceful use of nuclear power. On the bomb making intent, French president Nicholas Sarkozy recently said "It is a certainty to all our secret services."

Even the proverbially peace loving, war averse French want the maniacal gang in Iran crushed immediately. The three step process outlined back in July was when we thought there was the luxury of time for talking and blockading, etc. That has changed, and waiting many months for sanctions to make Iran's regime become more agreeable is not a solution Israel will accept. "By the end of the year, if there is no agreement on crippling sanctions aimed at this regime, we will have no choice..." Ephraim Sneh former brigadier-general and deputy defense minister of Israel.

So why, after receiving Iran's slap-in-the-face answer to the September deadline, constructed when we thought we had more time, and seeing Washington's bungled intel corrected to agree with Israel, is Obama saying to Iran and the world "OK, we didn't mean it. Let's take some more time to talk. Is October 1 OK?" This is being written about as a huge foreign policy blunder. "The longer the U.S. delays playing hardball with Iran, the sooner Israel is likely to strike." Bret Stephens, WSJ. The Bipartisan Policy Center published a piece on 9/15 "Meeting the Challenge - Time Is Running Out" by some former U.S. senators and the former deputy head of the U.S. Military European Command (includes Israel); it had this to say:
"Should we fail to act decisively to curtail Iran's nuclear program in the near term, or if it appears likely that Iran is about to obtain game-changing military technology, such as Russia's S-300 anti-aircraft system, Israel, more likely than not, will act."
"Near term" could probably be construed to mean by year end in view of other published opinion from Israel. The first shipment of the S-300 gear is reportedly in Syria awaiting setup around Israel's targets in Iran.

Outside of the usual troublemaker governments like Venezuela and Russia, all this puts Washington into the role of running interference for the thugs in Tehran. And there is no solidarity on Capital Hill on how to do this. Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, says sanctions are unlikely to work while an Iranian gasoline ban bill makes its way through the congress. If they do the blockade of Iran's sea ports, that would be tantamount to an act of war, and missiles may be flying soon thereafter - only without as much element of surprise. The Israeli's, who now must be thinking "with friends like America, who needs enemies", are being boxed into a corner where they will be forced to take matters into their own hands. Maybe all the apparent confusion is just disinformation for Iran's sake. Let's hope the team in Washington is that smart.

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